Albert Mohler

Opinion

Caesar, coercion, and the Christian conscience: a dangerous confusion

Albert Mohler
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February 24, 2014 (Albert Mohler) - Several states are now considering legislation that would provide explicit protections to citizens whose consciences will not allow an endorsement of same-sex marriage. The bills vary by state, as do the prospects for legislative passage, but the key issues remain constant. Millions of American citizens are facing a direct collision between their moral convictions and the demands of their government.

The cases are now piling up. A wedding photographer in New Mexico, cake bakers in Colorado and Oregon, and a florist in Washington State have all found themselves in this predicament. Each now faces the coercive power of the state. They are being told, in no uncertain terms, that they must participate in providing services for same-sex weddings or go out of business.

The bills now being considered in several states are attempts to protect these citizens from government coercion. They take the form of remedial legislation — bills intended to fix a problem. And the problem is all too real, and so is the controversy over these bills.

Those pushing for the legalization of same-sex marriage are relentless in their insistence that these bills would violate the civil rights of same-sex couples. They brilliantly employed arguments from the civil rights in their push for same-sex marriage, and they now employ similar arguments in their opposition to bills that would protect the consciences of those opposed to same-sex marriage. They claim that the rights of gays and lesbians and others in the LGBT community are equivalent to the rights rightly demanded by African Americans in the civil rights movement. Thus far, they have been stunningly successful in persuading courts to accept their argument.

That sets up the inevitable collision of law and values and Christian conviction. In each of the cases listed above, the key issue is not a willingness to serve same-sex couples, but the unwillingness to participate in a same-sex wedding. Christian automobile dealers can sell cars to persons of various sexual orientations and behaviors without violating conscience. The same is true for insurance agents and building contractors. But the cases of pressing concern have to do with forcing Christians to participate in same-sex weddings — and this is another matter altogether.

Photographers, makers of artistic wedding cakes, and florists are now told that they must participate in same-sex wedding ceremonies, and this is a direct violation of their religiously-based conviction that they should lend no active support of a same-sex wedding. Based upon their biblical convictions, they do not believe that a same-sex wedding can be legitimate in any Christian perspective and that their active participation can only be read as a forced endorsement of what they believe to be fundamentally wrong and sinful. They remember the words of the Apostle Paul when he indicted both those who commit sin and those “who give approval to those who practice them.” [Romans 1:32]

The advocates of same-sex marriage saw this coming, as did the opponents of this legal and moral revolution. Judges and legal scholars also knew the collision was coming. Judge Michael McConnell, formerly a judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit and now director of Stanford University’s Constitutional Law Center, suggested many years ago that the coming conflict would “feature a seemingly irreconcilable clash between those who believe that homosexual conduct is immoral and those who believe that it is a natural and morally unobjectionable manifestation of human sexuality.” Accordingly, he called for a spirit of tolerance and respect, much like what society expects of religious believers and atheists — what he called “civil toleration.”

But the advocates of same-sex marriage are not friendly to the idea of toleration. One prominent gay rights lawyer predicted just this kind of controversy almost a decade ago when she admitted that violations of conscience would be inevitable as same-sex marriage is legalized. Chai Feldblum, then a professor at the Yale Law School, also admitted that her acknowledgement of a violated conscience might be “cold comfort” to those whose consciences are violated.

But perhaps the strangest and most disappointing dimension of the current controversy is the entry of some Christians on the side of coercing the conscience. Writing in USA Today, Kirsten Powers accused Christians supporting such legislation of “essentially arguing for homosexual Jim Crow laws.” She explicitly denied that florists and bakers and photographers are forced to “celebrate” a same-sex union when forced to provide their services for such a ceremony.

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Well, my wife and I recently celebrated the wedding of our daughter. We not only celebrated it, we paid for it. And I can assure you that we were expecting our florist and cake baker and photographer to celebrate it as well. And we employed them for their artistic ability and we paid for their expressive ideas. Kirsten Powers went on to suggest that Christians who have such scruples about same-sex weddings are hypocritical if they do not refuse to participate in the wedding of an adulterer. As a matter of fact, some Christian wedding vendors do indeed try to screen their clients in this way. But the fact remains that the marriage of a man and a woman is, in the biblical point of view, still valid. No union of same-sex couples is valid according to the Bible. This is a huge and consequential matter of conscience and conviction.

Jesus, we should note, was often found in the presence of sinners. He came, as he said, to save those who are lost. But there is not a shred of biblical evidence to suggest that Jesus endorsed sin in any way. To suggest otherwise is an offense to Scripture and to reason.

Just days later, Powers was joined by Jonathan Merritt in yet another essay in which they argued that conservative Christians are selectively applying the Scriptures in making their case. They also denied that forcing participation in a same-sex ceremony is a violation of conscience. They wrote:

Many on the left and right can agree that nobody should be unnecessarily forced to violate their conscience. But in order to violate a Christian’s conscience, the government would have to force them to affirm something in which they don’t believe. This is why the first line of analysis here has to be whether society really believes that baking a wedding cake or arranging flowers or taking pictures (or providing any other service) is an affirmation. This case simply has not been made, nor can it be, because it defies logic.  If you lined up 100 married couples and asked them if their florist “affirmed” their wedding, they would be baffled by the question.

Well, the issue is really not what “society really believes” about baking a wedding cake, but what the baker believes. Reference to what “society really believes” is a way of dismissing religious liberty altogether. If the defining legal or moral principle is what “society really believes,” all liberties are eventually at stake.

Their article also perpetuates another major error — that the wedding of a man and a woman under sinful circumstances is tantamount to the wedding of a same-sex couple. In their words, “This makes sure to put just one kind of ‘unbiblical’ marriage in a special category.” But a same-sex marriage is not “just one kind” of an unbiblical marriage — it is believed by conservative Christians to be no marriage at all.

The state might decide to recognize a same-sex union as a marriage, but to coerce a Christian to participate in a same-sex wedding is a gross violation of religious conscience.

And it will not stop with bakers and florists and photographers. What about singers and other musicians? Under the argument of Powers and Merritt, they can be forced to sing a message they believe to be abhorrent. What about writers for hire? This argument would force a Christian who writes for hire to write a message that would violate the deepest Christian convictions. To be forced to participate in an expressive way is to be forced to endorse and to celebrate.

The most lamentable aspect of the Powers and Merritt argument is the fact that they so quickly consign Christians to the coercive power of the state. They should be fully free to try their best to present a biblical argument that the right response of Christians is to offer such services. But to condemn brothers and sisters as hypocrites and to consign their consciences to the coercion of Caesar is tragic in every aspect. We can only hope that they will rethink their argument … and fast.

Reprinted with permission from Albert Mohler



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BREAKING: Kim Davis defeats ACLU attempt to force her to violate her conscience

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ROWAN COUNTY, Kentucky, February 9, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) - A federal judge has turned down the ACLU's attempt to force Kim Davis to violate her conscience while issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Although Governor Matt Bevin granted a religious accommodation for the county clerk to issue altered marriage licenses to homosexuals, the ACLU brought a lawsuit seeking to force Davis to issue the old forms with her full name on them.

"There is absolutely no reason that this case went so far without reasonable people respecting and accommodating Kim Davis' First Amendment rights," said Mat Staver, the founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, who is defending Davis. "Today's ruling by Judge Bunning rejected the ACLU's request to hold Kim Davis in contempt of court."

Kim Davis is a born again Apostolic Christian who refuses to issue marriage licenses bearing her name to homosexuals, because doing so would imply her consent and participation in something the Bible deems sinful. "It's a Heaven or Hell decision," she said. Davis contacted state legislators and former Gov. Steve Beshear, a Democrat, seeking a religious accommodation that would alter the form but allow her office to recognize gay unions, to no avail.

Ultimately, she spent six days in jail last September after Judge Bunning held her in contempt of court for refusing to issue the unamended forms.

"Those who are persecuting Kim Davis believe that Christians should not serve in public office," Senator Ted Cruz said after her arrest.

When she was released last September 8, presidential hopefuls Mike Huckabee and Cruz showed up to wish her well.

"Lock me up" in Kim Davis' place, Mike Huckabee said. "Let Kim go."

When Davis returned to work last September 14, she allowed other employees to grant new certificates that did not have her name on them.

Deputy Rowan County Clerk Brian Mason said that Davis “confiscated all the original forms, and provided a changed form which deletes all mentions of the County, fills in one of the blanks that would otherwise be the County with the Court’s styling, deletes her name, deletes all of the deputy clerk references, and in place of deputy clerk types in the name of Brian Mason, and has him initial rather than sign.”

Matt Bevin, the Republican who would be elected governor that November, promptly granted Davis an accommodation and signed the first new regulation on abortion in a dozen years shortly after taking office.

But the ACLU sued to force Davis to issue the old certificates, anyway. Judge Bunning wrote that would be unnecessary.

"There is every reason to believe that any altered licenses issued between September 14, 2015, and September 20, 2015, would be recognized as valid under Kentucky law, making re-issuance unnecessary," wrote Judge David Bunning, a Republican whose father Jim Bunning, was a baseball great and former U.S. senator. "Under these circumstances, the court finds that Plaintiffs’ request for relief is now moot."

Since returning to work, Davis has met with Pope Francis and attended President Obama's last State of the Union address.

"From the beginning we have said the ACLU is not interested in marriage licenses. They want Kim Davis' scalp," Staver said. "They want to force her to violate her conscience. I am glad the court rejected this bully tactic."



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Black pastors pray over Hillary Clinton at Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia.
Fr. Mark Hodges

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Black pastors pray over ‘president-to-be’ Clinton right before she condemns pro-life bill

Fr. Mark Hodges

WASHINGTON, D.C., February 9, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – After pastors invoked God's blessing upon her presidential run, Hillary Clinton condemned legislation to protect babies in the womb.

The African-American ministers "laid hands" on Clinton and prayed to "decree and declare the favor of the Lord" upon Clinton, who is in a neck-and-neck race with Bernie Sanders for the Democrat nomination for president.

"President-to-Be Clinton, we decree and declare from the crown of your head to the soles of your feet that the favor of the Lord will surround you like a shield, in Jesus's name," they prayed, at Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia.

The Clinton campaign proceeded to vigorously oppose proposed legislation in Oklahoma designed to save pre-born babies.

Oklahoman Thomas Hunter filed for a petition to change the state constitution so that it prohibits any action "that causes the death of an unborn human being" – whether abortion or post-conception "contraception."

Clinton campaign senior adviser Maya Harris came out vehemently against putting Hunter's petition on the state's ballot, calling it "unconstitutional" and "bad for the health of Oklahoma women."

Speaking on behalf of the Clinton campaign, Harris said, "This initiative petition should be challenged and, if it makes it on the ballot, rejected by Oklahomans."

Reaction to the two contradictory acts – the religious blessing and the condemnation of pro-life legislation – was swift and strong among African-American ministers.

"It is shameful to see clergy abandon the principles of the faith and engage in such heretical political pandering," the Reverend Dr. Clenard H. Childress, Jr. told LifeSiteNews. "These clergy represent the problem the church has in the clarity of its message and the demonstration of its worth."

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"There was a time when the church was very powerful – in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed," Rev. Childress, founder of Black Genocide, told LifeSiteNews. "In those days, the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society."

"So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound," Rev. Childress concluded. "So often it is an arch-defender of the status quo."

"Abortion remains the number-one killer of black Americans, higher than all other causes of death combined," Pastor Arnold M. Culbreath, a founding member of the National Black Pro-Life Coalition, told LifeSiteNews. "Therefore, it is absolutely critical that blacks become informed, equipped, and provided with resources to end the abortion-related genocide occurring in our communities every day."

"With Hillary Clinton's extreme and consistent pro-abortion views and actions," Pastor Culbreath asserted, "it is a travesty that pastors would be more focused on laying hands on her, rather than challenging her views with credible research and making her aware of the devastating impact abortion is having on black babies, mothers, and families across America. Black lives depend on it!"

"We have the most anti-life president in office now, because Christians put him there," Pastor Walter and Darleen Moss told LifeSiteNews in a joint statement. "Will Christians continue to ignore what may be the most significant issue of the coming presidency – the issue of life?"

"If black lives matter, do black lives matter in the womb?" the Mosses asked. "The greatest curse on this nation results from the shedding of innocent blood from the womb. How can we advance if we keep killing our children?"

Then the Mosses spoke to African-American clergy who toe the Democrat party line. "If these good pastors read their Bibles, they would know that it clearly says, 'Jesus is the LIFE.' Therefore, is not pro-abortion anti-life and anti-Christ? Are we not made in the image of God? Does He not know us in the womb?"

"Pastors may be close to, if not at, apostasy to continue to endorse any candidate who endorses the murder of our children," the Mosses concluded. "That would include Hillary Clinton, a champion for eugenics and Margaret Sanger and Planned Parenthood, the number-one killer of our babies in the USA and around the world through the United Nations."

Rev. Childress quoted Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. against "Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama's insidious alliance with Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry": "'Racial discrimination ... relegates persons to the status of things. ... It is a tragic expression of man's spiritual degeneracy and moral bankruptcy.' So it is not surprising to see Hillary Clinton's negative response to recognizing infants as persons and not things."

Hunter's proposed amendment to the Oklahoma constitution would also ban "the deliberate destruction of unborn human beings created in a laboratory."

Hunter, who filed the constitutional petition in Oklahoma, explained to the Tulsa World, "The question is whether or not the Supreme Court ruling that born people have the right to kill unborn people was, in fact, constitutional in the first place."



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Rebecca Kiessling

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Gov. Christie, killing rape-conceived babies (like me!) is NOT self-defense

Rebecca Kiessling

February 9, 2016 (Savethe1) -- Children conceived in rape – like me – took a beating at the GOP presidential debate in New Hampshire Saturday evening.  Gov. Chris Christie and Gov. Jeb Bush had some harsh words regarding the treatment of the innocent child conceived in rape, and I think their rhetoric demonstrates that they're not really committed to ending abortion, but merely doing the bare minimum to win votes from those who identify as pro-life.

For starters, Gov. Christie said, “I believe that if a woman has been raped, that is a pregnancy that she should be able to terminate.”  What does he mean by “terminate”?  It may come as a surprise to many of you, but I voluntarily terminated three of my pregnancies.  My daughters are doing quite well now, after having labor induced.  You see, you can terminate a pregnancy and still have a live baby.  Normally delivery of a baby is the termination of a pregnancy.  Inducing labor or performing a C-section is the premature termination of a pregnancy.  But that’s not what Christie is talking about, is it?  He’s talking about the termination where you have a dead baby – because he or she is killed.  So what he’s saying is that my birthmother – a woman who had been raped – should have been able to kill me.  Ouch!  That’s not pro-life.

Then he went on to say, “The fact is that we have always believed, as has Ronald Reagan, that we have self defense for women who have been raped and impregnated because of it or been victims of incest and been impregnated for it.”  Since he used the tactic of invoking President Reagan, let’s take a look at what Reagan actually said:

Let us unite as a nation and protect the unborn with legislation that would stop all Federal funding for abortion and with a human life amendment making, of course, an exception where the unborn child threatens the life of the mother. Our Judeo-Christian tradition recognizes the right of taking a life in self-defense. But with that one exception, let us look to those others in our land who cry out for children to adopt.  I pledge to you tonight I will work to remove barriers to adoption and extend full sharing in family life to millions of Americans so that children who need homes can be welcomed to families who want them and love them.  – Ronald Reagan, State of the Union address, January, 1988

If you’re going to invoke Reagan to bolster your position, you’d better be sure you got that right.  But in case mischaracterizing Reagan’s position wasn’t bad enough, Gov. Christie outdid himself with his next statement:  “I believe that they do not have to deliver that child if they believe that is an act of self defense by terminating that pregnancy.”  “An act of self-defense?!”  This is the kind of rhetoric you hear from abortion rights advocates – suggesting that the innocent preborn child is somehow continuing to rape the woman, and therefore, she needs to kill the baby to stop the rape.  Gov. Christie, since you recognize my right as a woman to engage in an act of self defense, let me clear up your confusion: I was NOT raping my birthmother!  I was not attacking her.  I was innocent.  I’m pleading my innocence!  So here’s my advice to you – punish rapists, not babies.  It’s not a difficult concept.  This is my act of self defense – quit picking on innocent children like me by suggesting our lives weren’t worth living or protecting, because I fight back and I will defend my life!

Since his remarks Saturday evening, I’ve been inundated with suggestions from people that I need to talk to him and to share my story with him – just like with Gov. Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich four years ago when I changed their hearts during their presidential campaigns.  Well, I DID share my story with Chris Christie, at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida in August, 2012.  But he’s a different character and hard-hearted.  Like in the Parable of the Sower, in Matthew Chapter 13, the seeds did not fall on fertile soil.  But then Jesus explained:

This is why I speak to them in parables:

“Though seeing, they do not see;
    though hearing, they do not hear or understand.”

 In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah:

“You will be ever hearing but never understanding;
    you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.
 For this people’s heart has become calloused;
    they hardly hear with their ears,
    and they have closed their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
    hear with their ears,
    understand with their hearts
and turn, and I would heal them.”

As if the shots from Chris Christie weren’t enough to dehumanize and demoralize my people group, Gov. Jeb Bush had insults of his own:  “I am pro-life but I believe there should be exceptions — rape, incest and when the life of the mother is in danger.”  Any time a politician starts off with “I am pro-life but,” you know he’s not committed to ending abortion.  He may do the bare minimum to get pro-life voters to think he’s pro-life, but he’s not someone who is reliable to end legalized abortion, he’s not dependable to appoint Supreme Court Justices who will overturn Roe v Wade, and he’s clearly willing to discriminate and to leave the door open for all abortions through gaping loopholes.

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Then Gov. Bush issued the most telling remark – “That belief and my consistency on this makes me, I think, poised to be in the right place — the sweet spot — for Republican nominee.”  OUCH!!!  Okay, please keep in mind that I’m biting my tongue as I respond to his “sweet spot” remarks.  I looked up the definition of “sweet spot,” just so everyone understands how callous his words were, and the first definition to come up is sexual in nature -- “a spot on the body that responds pleasurably to a caress or touch,” and then there’s the sports reference – “the area from which the cleanest shots are made.”  Whether Jeb Bush is climaxing at the thought of denying a child conceived in rape her right to life in order to gain him victory as the GOP nominee, or if it’s that he finds the rape victim’s child to be the perfect whipping boy for taking shots at, his remarks are offensive, dehumanizing and demoralizing.

Lastly, Bush said, “Others may have a different view and I respect it.”  This isn’t about respecting mere political views -- this is about respecting not just my “view,” but my life!  I deserve to be alive, I was worthy of the protection I received pre-Roe v Wade, and others just like me deserve the same opportunity to be born.

If you call yourself pro-life, if you say you believe that the pre-born are persons and therefore, have a right to life under the 14th Amendment due process clause, then you cannot be willing to violate the second part of the 14th Amendment – the equal protection clause, which says that “No state shall deny a person equal protection of the laws.”  To do so is not only hypocritical, it’s unconstitutional.  And that’s precisely what Chris Christie and Jeb Bush are proposing – to deny persons equal protection under the law.

Recently, Sen. Lindsey Graham has made hurtful remarks calling children like me “the child of the rapist.”  I am sure he has no idea how offensive that is to the majority of rape survivors who not only choose life, but choose to raise their children.  After everything she’s been through and had to overcome, he has the audacity to suggest that her child is the rapist’s child.  We don’t call President Obama “the polygamist’s child,” so stop trying to demonize us in such a manner.  Give us our dignity and call us who we are – a rape victim’s child, a child of God, a person with a right to life.

Right now, the only two GOP presidential candidates who support overturning Roe v Wade and who refuse to discriminate against the child conceived in rape are Senator Ted Cruz and Senator Marco Rubio.  I’ve met Sen. Rubio in person, and would love to meet Sen. Cruz some day.  But I’m also willing to meet with any other candidates, and I do hope that by putting a face, a voice, and a real-life story to the issue, their hearts and minds would be changed so that they’d no longer support the killing of innocent children.   There are over 300 hundred of us through Save The 1 who were conceived in rape, mothers from rape, birthmothers from rape and post-abortive after rape.  We are thankful for the gift of life, we deserve our dignity, and we want our voices to be heard.

Rebecca Kiessling is a wife, mother of 5, attorney and international pro-life speaker and blogger.  She shares her story of having been conceived in rape and nearly aborted at two back alley abortions, but legally protected.  She’s the founder and President of Save The 1, co-founder of Hope After Rape Conception, and co-founder of Embryo DefenseReprinted with permission from Save The 1.



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